The principles of Biblical Hermeneutics are those governing laws and methods and procedure by which the interpreter determines the meaning of the Holy Scriptures. These principles are of the nature of comprehensive and fundamental doctrines. They become to the practical exegete so many maxims, postulates, and settled rules. He is supposed to hold them in the mind as axioms, and to apply them in all his expositions with uniform consistency. Schleiermacher has rightly said,
The perfect understanding of a discourse is a work of art, and involves the need of an art-doctrine, which we designate by the term Hermeneutics. Such an art-doctrine has existence only in so far as the precepts admitted form a system resting upon principles which are immediately evident from the nature of thought and language.
Importance of Sound Principles
The importance of establishing sound and trustworthy principles of Biblical exposition is universally conceded. For it is evident that a false principle in his method will necessarily vitiate the entire exegetical process of an interpreter. When we find that in the explanation of certain parts of the Scriptures no two interpreters out of a whole class agree, we have great reason to presume at once that some fatal error lurks in their principles of interpretation. We cannot believe that the sacred writers desired to be misunderstood. They did not write with a purpose to confuse and mislead their readers. Nor is reasonable to suppose that the Scripture, given the divine inspiration, is of the nature of a puzzle designed to exercise the ingenuity of critics. It was given to make men wise unto salvation, and in great part is so direct and simple in its teachings that a little child can understand its meaning. But the Bible contains some riddles and dark sayings, and many revelations in the form of types, symbols, parables, allegories, visions, and dreams, and the interpretation of these has exercised the most gifted minds. Many different and often contradictory methods of expositions have been adopted, and some enthusiasts have gone to the extreme of affirming that there are manifold meanings and “mountains of sense” in every line of Scripture. Under the spell of some such fascination many have been strangely misled, and have set forth as expositions of the Scriptures their own futile fancies. Lange points out,
As the sun in the earthly heavens has to break thought many cloudy media, so also does the divine word of Holy Scripture through the confusion of every kind which arises from the soil of earthly intuition and representation.
True method of determining sound principles
Sound hermeneutical principles are, therefore, elements of safety and satisfaction in the study of God’s written word. But how are such principles to be established? How may we determine what is true and what is false in the various methods of exposition? We must go to the Scriptures themselves, and search them in all their parts and forms. We must seek to ascertain the principles which the sacred writers followed. Naked propositions, or formulated rules of interpretation, will be of little or no worth unless supported and illustrated by self-verifying examples. It is worthy of note that the Scriptures furnish repeated examples of the formal interpretation of dreams, visions, types, symbols, and parables. In such examples, we are especially to seek our fundamental and controlling laws of exposition. Unless we find clear warrant for it in the word itself, we should never allow that any one passage or sentiment of divine revelation has more than one true import. The holy Scriptures is no Delphic oracle to bewilder and mislead the human heart by utterances of double meaning. God’s written word, taken as a whole, and allowed to speak for itself, will be found to be its own best interpreter.
Ennobling tendency of hermeneutical study
The process of observing the laws of thought and language, as exhibited in the Holy Scriptures, is an ennobling study. It affords an edifying intercourse with eminent and choice spirits of the past, and compels us for the time to lose sight of temporary interests, and to become absorbed with the thoughts and feelings of other ages. He who forms the habit of studying not only the divine thoughts of revelation, but also the principles and methods according to which those thoughts have been expressed, will acquire a moral and intellectual culture worthy of the noblest ambition.[i]
 Outline of the Study of Theology, p. 142. Edinb, 1850.
 Grundriss der biblischen Hermeneutik, p. 77